I read in Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic an analogy that keenly related to my life. Although I am in a later season of life than Rachel, God has used her analogy of a rock in a stream to encourage and strengthen my life now.
Spiritually, before I had children I was a like a rock lying in the bottom of a stream. The gentle but consistent flow of the water was smoothing my surface, changing me over time. I was progressing slowly, but steadily.
God, in His mercy, saw the need to step up the pace of changing me into His likeness. So He blessed me with children. Eventually there were five darling, happy, active, noisy children in my home— children who loved me, who needed me and depended upon me; children to clean for and cook for, to nurture, to comfort, to correct, to hug and kiss and snuggle with, to enjoy; children to train, discipline, educate, and disciple. It was as if He had suddenly plucked me from the quiet waters of the stream and thrust me into the crashing, plunging racket of a rock polisher. And although I wanted to be transformed into His likeness, there were times when I longed for the quiet waters I had known before. I had glimpses of that quietness while nursing a tiny infant in the middle of the night, washing dishes alone, or rocking a restless toddler to sleep as I sang Oh, How I Love Jesus or He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.
I often felt guilty about the lack of quietness in my life, there in the tumbler. At women’s retreats, older women told me that, in order to hear His voice and be transformed by His Word, I had to have an hour of quiet before the Lord each day. And I believed them. Condemnation weighed heavily upon me. I suffered under added guilt because I knew I could never live up to the standard that had been placed before me. Still, my heart cried out to know Him and to please Him.
As the years have progressed and my home is quiet again, I have found the peaceful, though very powerful, waters of the stream returning to pour over me. Though my life is busy, and I sometimes find myself in the rock tumbler again, it is not like the years I lived there before.
Now that my children are grown, I have the early morning time to be quiet before the Lord, and the fellowship is rich indeed. But honestly, I have struggled with the condemnation of all those years before when life was noisy and I was being tumbled about; Why didn’t I spend more time alone in my spiritual closet, quiet before the Lord and in His Word? I see now that God was faithful to me all along.
His transforming work in me was just that, His work.
During those years when children surrounded me, God was teaching me how to abide in Him. I understood the grace of God given for salvation, knowing there was nothing I could do to merit His free gift. I failed to grasp, however, that growing into a relationship with Christ is also a work of grace. He does it all.
What does that mean? Jesus Christ is responsible for teaching me, changing me into His image, transforming me by the renewing of my mind. I was so busy trying to do all the right things to make the transformation happen, that many times I missed the truth completely. God allowed me to become totally desperate for Him to work in my life so that I would have nothing in or of myself upon which I could depend. NOTHING. No amount of Bible study, scripture memory, or prayer could bring about the transformation I wanted and needed. It had to be a work of God. I wanted the change to take place immediately. God saw that it would take years.
What did He require of me? Simply to abide in Him. My first response was, “Great! Abide, what do I do in order to abide?” I was ready to be about the work of abiding, but through all those years of tumbling and bumping about in the rock tumbler of my life, He showed me that abiding is not a matter of doing, but of being. If your child is misbehaving and making wrong choices, does that make him any less your son? If he behaves well and makes all the right choices, does that make him any more your son? No, just by being he is your son. It is by being in Christ that I abide in Him. Even as a branch is grafted to the vine and must rely totally and completely upon the life of the vine to sustain and nourish and strengthen it, so I must rely upon Christ Jesus.
He is my everything is not a trite saying; it is the whole truth.
“In Him we live and move and have our being.”
To be in Christ is to know Him. To know Christ is to love Him. To love Christ is to trust Him.
I have spent the last thirty years of my life getting to know Him. He made me hungry for Him and His Word. He showed me ways to get more of His Word into my heart and mind, even in a rock tumbler existence. As I was abiding in the Vine, He was pouring Himself into me.
Christ was teaching me to walk day by day, moment by moment with Him. God wanted more than an early morning hour with me. He wanted all of me all the time. My life was being sustained by Jesus Christ, the Vine, and God, as the husbandman, was faithful to keep and to prune me so I could bear more fruit.
Often I worried about the fruit. Would I ever bear much fruit? How could I, if I did not spend hours in His Word and hours doing the work of ministry? It took years for me to learn that the fruit was the product of the vine through the branch, not the product of the branch on its own. Have you ever walked past a vineyard and heard the branches straining and groaning to bear fruit? No, it is the living sap of the vine flowing through them that enables the branches to bear fruit. It is through abiding in Him that we receive life from Him, and it is His work to conform us into His likeness, enabling us to bear fruit.
As I continue a life of abiding, I desire to know Him more completely. He will be my lifelong pursuit—not by doing, but by being, by abiding in Him. Just as I received Jesus Christ by faith, it is by faith that I abide in Him. It is for Him to choose how He will work in me.
The same is true for those of you crashing and banging into one another in the rock tumbler with your children.
Abide in Him.
Walk with Him.
Pursue Him moment by moment.
Submit and surrender to Him.
Say, “I abide in You now,” with each challenge or peaceful moment He allows. Do not despise this noisy time. Christ Jesus is using this time to bring you to the end of self—self-righteousness, self-reliance, self-motivation, self-anything. He is guiding you to the place where you will depend entirely upon Him. He is teaching you to abide. Be grateful. Be joyful. It is His work, and He will do it!
The time will come when the quiet, powerful waters will flow around you and over you, and the fellowship with Jesus will be so much sweeter because of what the two of you have already walked through together. Changing into His image will come easier in the quieter time because you have become accustomed to listening for His voice and obeying His commands even in the noise of the rock polisher. His commands will become as dear to you as His promises, because you see the love and purpose in the commands, having abided in Him while in the rock tumbler. Belief will be more secure, faith will rise up more quickly, and love beyond your highest thoughts will envelop you. You will continue to learn, as I am still learning, to abide.
Abide in Him during every moment you are consciously communing with Him, knowing He loves you and desires to dwell in you, becoming one with you as He is one with the Father.
Abide in Him in every moment of fear and unbelief or need or darkness, knowing that He is faithful to you ALWAYS.
Abide in Him every moment that your God-given responsibilities and the tasks necessary for living demand your full attention, knowing that He is all-powerful to keep you abiding in Him during those times as well.
Let God do His work in you now. And thank God for the rock tumbler of your life.